Many Australians make the choice to age in place to maintain independence and be close to familiar surroundings.
People value staying near their communities and the services they need regularly, both of which weigh heavily on the choice to remain in the home rather than move to a care facility.
Ageing in place can also be important for a positive quality of life, including promoting healthy social connections and maintaining independence.
But as we age, it may not be easy living independently and the comforts of home can quickly become a danger. This can compromise confidence around the home, especially when it comes to safe and accessible mobility.
Mobility is generally affected through age, usually seen in such ways as a slowing down of movement or less responsive coordination. Other physical changes associated with ageing, such as decreased dexterity and impaired visual acuity, can also affect day-to-day mobility and healthy physical functioning around the home.
All these changes can often lead to reduced confidence in even the most familiar surroundings.
With careful planning and consideration, a positive living experience at home can be enhanced by maintaining a safe and accessible environment. Changes to the home set up, furnishings or routines around the home can all play an important part. A home carer visiting regularly can also ensure that loved ones remain safe within their homes.
Here are 7 strategies to keep the home safer and more accessible for your and your ageing loved ones:
1. Check floor surfaces
Improve safe movement around the home by removing loose rugs or mats from floors. Also check if carpets or floor surfaces are deteriorating, coming away from the floor or are uneven. Improve the home by:
- Installing non-slip strip mats where water can get on floors, such as kitchens and bathrooms, or where there is high foot traffic on hard floors.
- Organising qualified professionals to undertake repairs or replacements, ensuring work is done appropriately for the environment.
2. Declutter spaces
Make spaces safe by decluttering high traffic flow areas, including corridors or doorways. Remove unstable, fragile objects from hard-to-reach areas and ensure any object that could be a hazard, such as glass or a heavy item, is stored securely out of danger. Reorganising can be a positive activity as you reposition loved treasures so that they remain in view and can continue to be enjoyed, rather than tucked away in a cupboard
3. Reorganise everyday items for easy access
Often-used items in the home should be kept in spaces that have easy and safe access. These include items used regularly in the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. Make sure these items are at an accessible height, not in high cupboards or very low shelves, and can be easily obtained when needed. Other things to consider include:
- Place any toxic substances in clearly labelled, safe containers.
- Do not mix perishables with cleaning products. Organise spaces so that containers and substances will not get mixed.
- Ask your home carer to check use-by dates regularly and to remove out of date or suspicious substances from the home.
4. Install accessibility aids and grab rails
Accessibility aids and grab rails are essential in areas including bathrooms, toilets and laundry areas. Rails provide necessary support where movement is irregular, for getting up and down, or where balance is required. They are also important where floor or ground surfaces are uneven or subject to water.
5. Have the right taps and handles in the home
Gripping and strength changes with age and previously useful handles and taps can become inaccessible. It is important to update these things in the home to avoid injury or more serious dangers. Make sure to:
- Change knob handles on doors and cupboards to levers that are easier to turn and open.
- Check taps are not stiff and remain easy to use. Consider changing to flick mixers that don’t require a firm grip to activate.
6. Set up emergency numbers for quick, easy access
Emergency numbers and medical contacts need to be clearly marked and easy to access. In a time of stress or worry, it is easy to become confused. The clearer the system can be for contacting help in an emergency, the more likely it is for a loved one to remember and access under duress. Other things to consider include:
- Setting up a basic mobile phone to use exclusively for emergencies, including calling Triple Zero, key family members, the local hospital and pharmacist, and the family doctor or specialist. Have these numbers stored in the phone and explain its use clearly to loved ones.
- Auto save numbers as priorities on landline phones.
- Install a fixed landline phone rather than only having a cordless/rechargeable phone, to ensure a flat battery or lost device does not lead to serious consequences.
7. Have a home carer visit regularly
Having a regular professional visitor is one of the best ways to make sure the safety and accessibility of the home remains constant. Ensure home care visits are consistent and provide for quality time so that checks can be made and necessary improvements organised.
These important measures should be implemented in a timely way to set up a safe and accessible home for yourself or loved ones keen to age in place. Keep this list at hand and revisit it regularly to make sure safety and accessibility are maintained. And remember, the consistent visitation of a home carer is the most effective way to address potential risks quickly and have them managed professionally.
Contact Pearl Home Care today to discuss how measures like these will help to ensure you and your loved ones have a safe and positive time at home.